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NEA celebrates life, mourns death of education champion Mandela

WASHINGTON - December 05, 2013 -

Today, the 3 million members of the National Education Association stand with the people of South Africa and the world to mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela as a champion of human rights worldwide. Mandela began as a freedom fighter within a national movement and became an international icon for human rights and peace everywhere. He will be remembered as a leader who dared, built understanding, and transformed a nation. During the Apartheid years, NEA and the community of education unions from around the globe were honored to support the African Teachers’ Association of South Africa in the struggle to end Apartheid.

“Mandela’s life’s work was about shaping the future, building unity within democracy, and nurturing the development of the nation’s children,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. “His legacy leaves for us great progress and a vision for growing social justice and quality public education.”

“NEA and the global education unions that are part of Education International, recognize that this is an insurmountable loss for the South African people, yet we know it will not deter them from advancing equitable quality public education for all students,” said Van Roekel, who also serves as a Vice President of Education International.

“Educators around the globe celebrate the life and mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, an international champion for education and equality,” said Van Roekel. “Mr. Mandela’s famous quote: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’ is one that hangs on posters in classrooms throughout the world and that NEA members and students everywhere draw strength from every day. It is a goal that we all must get behind: improving the access and quality of education for all so we can all contribute to a better future.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Sara Robertson
(202) 822-7823,